Wheaton (Ill.) hands #8-Illinois Wesleyan its first loss on Aston Francis' three at the buzzer

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Bloomington, Ill. - Down one with five seconds to play, everyone in attendance at Wednesday night's CCIW battle at the Shirk Center knew who was getting the last shot for Wheaton. Aston Francis nailed a step-back three-pointer from the top of the key as time expired, giving Wheaton a 90-88 victory over #8-ranked Illinois Wesleyan. The victory stops a two-game slide for the Thunder and moves their record to 6-2 overall and 1-1 in the CCIW while knocking Illinois Wesleyan from the ranks of the unbeatnes at 7-1 overall and 1-1 in the CCIW. Wheaton has now won consecutive games at the Shirk Center for the first time since 2009-10.

Similar to last season's shootout in Bloomington, Wheaton finished the game shooting better than 50% from the field, finishing at 53.8% (35-65) and 48.5% (16-33) from the three-point line. Wheaton shot just six free throw attempts, making four of them. Illinois Wesleyan shot just under 50%, hitting 48.2% (27-56) of its field goal attempts despite an impressive 63.6% (14-22) performance from the three-point line. The Titans shot 83.3% (20-24) at the free throw line. Both teams finished with the same rebounding line, collecting 31 total rebounds including eight offensive boards.

Aston Francis led five Thunder scorers in double figures, finishing with 27 points and a game-high eight assists. Nyameye Adom scored 14 points to go with five rebounds, Kobe Eichelberger finished with 12 points, Luke Peters had 11 points with six assists, and Tyson Cruickshank added 10 points. Jason Gregoire led three Titans in double figures with 21 points. Colin Bonnett scored 19 points and Brady Rose finished with 17 points. Charlie Bair grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to go with nine points.

Illinois Wesleyan raced out to its biggest lead of the game, answering Wheaton's opening three-pointer with a 9-0 run to lead by six just under two minutes into the game. The titans continued to lead by four with 12 minutes left in the half but a five-point spurt by the Thunder gave Wheaton a 24-23 lead following a three-pointer by Gavin Hawkins. After trading the lead back and forth, Wheaton used an 8-0 run to take its biggest lead of the game at 37-31 with 4:50 remaining in the half. A six-point Titan run was answered with five straight Wheaton points, but three late free throws by Bonnett cut Wheaton's halftime lead to just one at 50-49.

An early second half run pushed Illinois Wesleyan back into the lead and gave the Titans some breathing room through the first nine minutes of the first half. Trailing by five with 11 minutes to play following a Brady Rose jumper, a three by Kobe Eichelberger and five straight points from Tyson Cruickshank made up an 8-0 Thunder run that saw Wheaton hold the Titans scoreless for over four minutes until a tip-in by Bair at the 6:53 mark cut the lead to one.

After a free throw tied the game at 75, Nyameye Adom connected on a three-pointer and Trevor Gunter knocked down a jumper to push Wheaton to an 80-75 edge with 4:16 to play. Gregoire responded with a pair of free throws before the sixth three-pointer of the night from Francis gave Wheaton an 83-77 lead with 3:01 remaining. Brady Rose answered with a three 11 seconds later to cut the Wheaton lead to 83-80. After Adom split a pair of free throws, the Titans reeled off six straight points, taking the lead on a Gregoire three with 1:18 to play.

A pair of free throws by Brady Rose pushed the Titan lead to 88-85 with 17 seconds left, but a lay-up by Cruickshank pulled Wheaton to within one with eight second to play. Following a Wheaton timeout, Rose's pass intended for Grant Wolfe sailed out of bounds at midcourt giving Wheaton one final chance, trailing 88-87 with five seconds left. After another timeout, Francis took the inbounds pass in the backcourt, drove to the top of the key and bounced back and to his right, launching the game-winning three-pointer over an oncoming double team as time expired to give Wheaton the 90-88 victory as the lead changed hands for the 18th and final time of the night.

Wheaton will return home on Saturday night, when the Thunder host Olivet College for a 7 pm tip-off at King Arena.

Note Worthy: With his 27 points tonight, Aston Francis moves past Charles Ridley (1995-99) and Tyler Peters (2010-14) into 11th place on Wheaton's career scoring list 1,559 career points.